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As the Worm Turns!

by Les Albjerg
(Caldwell, Idaho)

Chris turned me on to my roots a couple of years ago going back to fishing with worms. I am so thankful for his articles on "Upstream Worm" fishing. You know worm fishing is effective since I find it banned in many of the places I want to fish! (See the articles on the "overhand worm" so you can still fish worms.

I have found size 20-22 wide gap scud hooks make an excellent double hook set-up that Chris talks about in his articles. I personally have found it to be more effective than the triple hook set-up that W.C. Stewart promoted. However, my favorite set-up is the Gamakatsu Amago Hook size 7.5 snelled with 18 inches of 6.5x fluorocarbon tippet. The shape of this hook lends itself to a solid threading of the worm on the hook, and gives great hook-ups. I find the shape helps prevent the trout from swallowing the hook. If you look at the hook on this website, I thread the middle of the worm (red wiggler) in the middle around the bend and what looks like a 45 degree angle of the hook I leave inside the worm and then bring the point out of the worm. This makes for a solid connection that is difficult to cast off the worm or the trout to steal your worm.

One of my favorite lines is the Nissin Pals SP Pro tapered fluorocarbon line. I just got back from one of my favorite creeks fishing the 4 meter length with 12 inches of "tactical nymph sighter" and the above set-up using the Nissin Air Stage Honryu 450. Guess what? Trout aggressively take worms even in the winter! Five casts, 4 trout were caught in about 20 minutes. I moved up to where the riffles dumped into a fairly nice pool, and caught 6 mountain whitefish casting up on the edge of the riffles letting the worm drift into the pool. Using the technique in the "Upstream" articles works.

Last week I was in the Portland area visiting relatives. Take care in sharing your passion for "Fixed Line" fishing and "garden hackle" flies. I found out my brother-in-law is a dry fly snob! I had my TenkaraBum Traveler 44 with me, and he was so snobby, he wouldn't even look at it! I showed him several "Brag" pictures and he really turned his nose up when he saw a couple of my nice catches on JDM spinning gear. I tried to give a couple of my relatives fly-rod spoons, but they said, "We won't fish with them." So as we end another year, I am thankful for this community that is much more open minded to enjoy trying new to us often, but often very traditional techniques from other places in the world to entice a fish to give us a thrill. Tight lines to all in 2020.

Comments for As the Worm Turns!

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Dec 28, 2019

by: Chris Stewart

If they get all high brow on you, tell them that raising red wigglers is more environmentally conscious than buying fly tying materials. What else can turn junk mail and Amazon boxes into the best fertilizer there is?

Dec 28, 2019
Come back
by: Chris Stewart

If they get all high brow on you, tell them that raising red wigglers is more environmentally conscious than buying fly tying materials. What else can turn junk mail and Amazon boxes into the best fertilizer there is?

Dec 28, 2019
by: Doug

I've found the best way to deal with those snobs is to show them photos of bass I caught.

Dec 29, 2019
I taught them too well!
by: Les Albjerg

My critics were once my students. Thinking about it, I taught all 4 of my critics how to fly fish! One of my Christmas gifts was the book, "Every Day Was Special - A flyfisher's Lifelong Passion" by William G. Tapply. One of the better writers in my book. Interestingly, he cut his teeth on learning how to fish with an old bamboo fly rod and a worm!

On page 70 he says, "When I fished for trout in our lazy local brooks and streams, an unweighted worm on a fly rod usually did the job. I figured out how to flip the worm up into the head of a pool and steer it through the fish-holding lies. I intuitively understood the importance of keeping my line off the water so that the worm would tumble along with the currents. I had never heard the word "drag." but I could have explained it to you. I watched the place where my leader entered the water, and the slightest hesitation or twitch triggered my hook-setting reflex. Sometimes it meant I'd hung up on a rock or sunken log. More often it was a trout."

Sounds a lot like what Chris just shared on Upstream Worms!

Dec 30, 2019
Bait Dunkers
by: Herb S.

All the old fly fishing writers dunked bait at one time or another. Even Saint Ray Bergman wrote about fishing worms and minnows when the trout weren’t on flies. Ted Trueblood, A.J. McClane and many other writers gave bait fishing instructions. So where do these "purists" get the notion to look down their noses at those who fish "naturals" (as my old spin fishing pal called ‘em)?

This is my 60th year with a fly rod and one of my clearest memories was when my wife and I were on one of our first trips to the U.P. (Michigan’s Upper Peninsula). We were camped near the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula and I followed a small creek down from the road. It was a jungle and I soon realized fly fishing wasn’t going to work. So I stripped the feathers off a small streamer and started turning over logs to find worms. They were there and so were the brook trout that found my flipped in bait. The trout were delicious. I went back the next day to another part of the stream with a spinning rod and store-bought bait. I can still taste those brookies!

Having been a member of Trout Unlimited for over 30 years I have plenty of tales of dry fly snobs, the forerunners of plain fly fishing snobs. Yet the guy who became my best friend until his untimely death was a spin fisherman. Pat would try silver spinners and then gold spinners if silver didn’t work and then he’d go to "naturals" (crawlers) if artificials didn’t work. Once in a while I’d join him; the first time he was surprised how accurately I could cast a spinning rod. Pat worked hard for the TU chapter and as he (and I) pointed out, Trout Unlimited was NOT a strictly fly fishing outfit, but a conservation organization open to anyone who wants to protect and improve the environment. We need all the help we can get!

Speaking of derision, I quickly gave up talking about the joys of fixed line fishing. Talk about being heckled! LOL!
Happy Fishing,

Dec 30, 2019
A River Runs Through it
by: Chris Stewart

If you've ever read or seen A River Runs Through It you'll have a good idea of where the "no clear line between religion and fly fishing" attitude got started, and how the worm-fishing brother-in-law was "as welcome as a dose of the clap."

I think that attitude was adopted by a whole generation of fly fishers.

Jan 03, 2020
A must read!
by: Les Albjerg

Chris mentioned Clear Water Trout Fishing with Worm by Sidney Spencer in his articles on Upstream Worm fishing. I went on Google and found many used copies available in England. It was no big deal ordering 2 of them and using PayPal to pay for them. I got the books on Monday. I also got two books from "Tenkara In Focus." They happened to come on Monday as well. If you are not familiar with Tenkara in Focus, you are really missing out. Paul Gaskell and John Pearson have done a tremendous service bringing Tenkara and fixed line fishing techniques to the English speaking world.

Dr. Paul Gaskell reprinted and expanded H.C. Cutcliffe's book The Art of Trout Fishing in Rapid Streams. I'm not sure if this is a total limited edition, but I was able to get number 80 of 300. Cutcliffe says, "I could not consider any man a perfect disciple of our art if he were not a good worm fisherman; he may be good with the artificial fly, natural fly, beetle or minnow, but if he is not far advanced in the art of worm fishing, I hold that man to be very limited in his education..."

Well, if you want to get educated, Sidney Spencer's book is a must read! I couldn't put it down, and I read it in one sitting finishing at 2 in the morning! Everything he writes is relevant except the rods. I wonder what Sidney would have thought about our 2 oz rods!

He has excellent summaries of all the rigs I have discovered in pouring over the old masters. He talks a lot about worms. I disagree with him on Red Wigglers, but he isn't hard and fast on his assessment. I feel I moved ahead by at least 5 years of bumbling by reading about his techniques for fishing clear water. Idaho fishing in the winter is "clear water" fishing.

Chris mentions using much smaller hooks than Spencer recommends. I too have used size 20 and 22 hooks. I tied up a couple of Pennell rigs and went out on New Year's morning. I used size 14 hooks like Spencer recommends. It was a great hour on the water! The stream I was fishing only has wild rainbows. I caught 4 fish from 8 inches to 13 inches. I missed 4 fish! The water was very clear. Two of the fish went after the worm in water so shallow they created a wake as they approached the worm! It was exciting fishing!

I've used several rods, and now have really settled into using the TenkaraBum Traveler 44. Having 3 lengths available to fish really lends itself to versatility. It also has a nice bend profile for casting and fighting the fish.

I agree with Cutcliffe, if you don't have worm fishing in your tool box you are not a well rounded fisherman or fisherwoman! You are also missing out on a lot of fun!

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